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Preparing students to see, serve and shape the world

“The results of Simpson’s strategic thinking process establish a strong direction for the college’s future development, while also reaffirming many of our historic values and traditions. Most importantly, the process resulted in a strategic plan that proposes a set of learning initiatives that we believe will prepare our students to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.” ~ President John Byrd

Dear Friends, It is with a keen sense of excitement that we present the results of our strategic thinking process. It has been an engaging process filled with hard work, helpful insights, and multiple opportunities to view Simpson College and its future possibilities. The culmination of that work is captured in this document, “Reshaping the Simpson Experience: preparing students to see, serve, and shape the world.” We shaped the process with this culminating objective in mind: the result should present us with a framework for making future decisions. Many strategic plans sit on the shelf. This one will guide our future. Throughout the journey, we remained mindful of our historic roots and traditions. Our plan establishes a set of learning initiatives that we believe will prepare our students to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. These learning initiatives are:

G Intellectual and practical skills G Integrative learning G Living and working in a global context G Leadership G Personal and social responsibility

Each of the above five initiatives are outlined in more detail in this document. Work has begun on campus this year to develop plans that integrate each of these initiatives into the curriculum. In fact, we already have initiated new programs built with these initiatives in mind, such as our partnership with Great Ape Trust of Iowa, and the creation of the Simpson Urban Studies Institute and the Center for Vocation and Integrative Learning. These are just the beginning. Once completed, this new curriculum will prepare students in a way found at very few institutions around the world. I would like to express my deep appreciation to all of the individuals and groups that have worked so hard to complete the strategic portion of our planning process during the past year. The high quality of their work has been obvious to those of us who have been privileged to listen to their discussions and to read their preliminary reports. The initiatives that have been developed will truly transform the education of our students, and in doing so will better prepare our students to live successful and satisfying lives. Sincerely,

Simpson is recognized by Peterson’s Competitive Colleges as one of the approximately 440 four-year colleges attended by the nation’s top students.

John W. Byrd President


valuable outcome of the process was the reaffirmation of the college’s heritage and mission. Our constituent groups clearly felt the college should maintain its important place as a selective, church-related, comprehensive college, strongly grounded in the liberal arts college; and dedicated to excellence in private higher education. In addition to reaffirming the mission, our stakeholders believe the college should continue to honor and build on the core values of community, quality, and respect; as well as the three historic traditions that have shaped the college throughout its history: its liberal arts tradition; its relationship to the United Methodist Church, and its commitment to valuing diversity. With the resolve to honor and strengthen our heritage and values, we envision a future where Simpson College will: •

Defining characteristics:

building on our heritage

• • • • • • •

Strengthen its role as a comprehensive institution strongly grounded in the liberal arts with a strong regional reputation and growing national visibility. Maintain its status as the region’s premier provider of evening, weekend, and selected graduate programs. Assemble and reward an energized and productive faculty, administration, and staff who embrace the mission of the college and believe passionately in the teaching-centered approach of the college. Increase the diversity of the faculty, staff, administration, and student body to levels that reflect the growing diversity in our region. Provide technology and facilities that support teaching and learning and enhance student growth and development inside and outside the classroom and laboratory. Create a vibrant campus environment that engages students in quality extra-curricular programs in athletics, music, theatre, Greek life, service, religious life, and through the myriad of clubs and organizations on campus. Become an exemplary model for other organizations with regard to sustainability and other environmental issues. Maintain a strong financial model characterized by: G G

Annual growth in the Simpson Fund Annual growth in the endowment resulting from prudent investing and increased success in planned giving G Growing enrollments that meet the resource needs of the college


hen talented and dedicated faculty and staff work with well-prepared and motivated students the potential for success is virtually unlimited. For generations of students, that defining formula has been at the heart of the “Simpson Experience.” And while it may appear simple, the true complexity of the Simpson Experience is expressed in an overriding and unwavering commitment to the unique ambitions, goals, and dreams that each student brings to the collegiate experience. The Simpson Experience is further defined by extra-curricular activities, internship opportunities, and service to others – all of which reflect the values and traditions that have made Simpson such a special place to live, learn, and serve for over 148 years.

Success in a changing world:

reshaping the Simpson Experience

But in working to understand the changing world our students will both serve and shape, we have learned that much more will be expected of them. The strategic planning process – and the resulting learning initiatives that emanate from that plan – will reshape and strengthen the Simpson Experience.

“I love Simpson’s learning environment. The class sizes are small, and I feel like what I provide in class is actually heard. I’ve established strong connections with my professors, who provide learning opportunities that will be beneficial to me beyond college. One day, I’m in the classroom learning and the next I’m out in the community applying what I’ve just learned.” ~ Sonya Nielsen, ’10, Avoca, Iowa

According to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), Simpson students are ahead of those at similar schools when it comes to completing internships and field experiences. More than 7 of 10 Simpson students take advantage of these opportunities.


s input from more than 1,000 people was evaluated, several key concepts emerged that will serve as guideposts as the major initiatives of this plan are implemented. These concepts are categorized under the three broad areas outlined below.

1. Develop a community that: G G G G

The future begins to emerge:

Values and celebrates diversity Celebrates learning and academic achievement in a collaborative learning environment Understands and acts on its core values Supports a faculty who maintain a passion for their discipline

2. Develop a curriculum that: G G G G G

Is cross-disciplinary and global Incorporates experiential education Requires transcultural experiences and develops cultural competence Strengthens reading, writing, and critical thinking skills Promotes leadership skills

3. Develop students who value: G G G G G

Being a person of character Being a responsible citizen in a global setting Lifelong reflective learning Liberal arts education and how that translates to engaged citizenship Being a person of service to their community

College and Character, a National Initiative of the John Templeton Foundation, named Simpson College one of the 60 colleges that offer students an exemplary program in the first year to develop moral character.

From the ideas related to community, curriculum, and student development the major initiatives evolved. These are the pillars that will reshape the Simpson Experience in powerful ways, and prepare students to see, serve and shape the world.

1 Intellectual and practical skills

A set of skills and abilities including written and oral communication, team work, information literacy, quantitative literacy, problem solving, critical and creative thinking, inquiry and analysis that provides students with the necessary tools to live productively in the 21st century.

2 Integrative learning Multidisciplinary approaches to learning that include cross disciplinary classroom learning

experiences and experiential opportunities such as internships, study abroad, involvement with community partnerships, undergraduate research and creative projects, volunteer service and service learning. These multidisciplinary approaches provide opportunities to apply knowledge in real world settings and do not sacrifice on subject matter, but promote “integrative” education, combining disciplines and combining academic and non-academic experiences.

The future defined:

strategically reshaping the Simpson Experience

3 Living and working in a global context

The development of skills and knowledge to function effectively as a responsible global citizen in the 21st century through involvement in international and/or domestic cross-cultural experiences and through promoting “global perspectives” across the curriculum that assist students with developing cultural competence and an awareness and understanding of social, economic, geopolitical and sustainability issues within a global context.

4 Leadership

Leadership occurs through the collective action of individuals and groups working on shared goals and aspirations to facilitate positive social change at the institution or in the community. It is an inclusive process that promotes the values of equity, social justice, self-knowledge, personal empowerment, citizenship and service.

5 Personal and social responsibility

Development of individual traits, skills, and values including intercultural understanding, ethics, civic engagement, and lifelong learning in order to live a life of moral character while also developing and acting upon one’s obligation to be a responsible and contributing member of the communities in which one lives and works.

Importantly, these bear a close resemblance to the learning initiatives identified in a comprehensive national study by the American Association of Colleges and Universities. The study determined that higher education must change along these lines so that students have the tools necessary for a lifetime of success. o understand each of the strategic initiatives, more specific descriptions and examples are helpful.


These strategies focus upon curricular revision, creating a comprehensive learning environment both in and out of the traditional classroom, enhancing the capacity of faculty and staff, and developing structure and resources necessary to effectively implement these strategies. Each of these initiatives fit with the mission, culture and resources of Simpson, and is designed to build on the historic strengths of the college and position Simpson as one of the premier institutions in the United States.

Intellectual and Practical Skills

A closer look:

what each learning initiative means to future Simpson students

Simpson must be a place where the liberal arts work. Therefore, we must constantly strive to provide an environment that encourages students to learn and demonstrate the core skills of educated citizenship: thinking critically and creatively; communicating effectively; the abilities of inquiry and analysis; quantitative and information competencies; and the ability to collaborate as a member of a team. The college is a place where intellectual rigor is supported and celebrated, and where campus-based learning is supported by opportunities for hands-on application. These are a sampling of the types of initiatives that may support and sustain such a learning environment: G

Revise the general education curriculum to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century and develop a comprehensive core curriculum with strengthened first year and senior year programs. G Support the faculty and staff development programs to provide for skill enhancement in technology for all college employees and in teaching pedagogy for faculty. G Adapt existing academic and college structures to better prepare students for the complex contemporary and enduring challenges of work and global citizenship.

According to the NSSE survey, Simpson students are ahead of those at similar schools in completing a culminating senior experience, such as a capstone or thesis.

Simpson College was named to U.S. News & World Report’s list of colleges with the most students studying abroad. Simpson was just one of three Iowa colleges to make the list.

Integrative Learning

Integrative learning provides significant and meaningful learning opportunities for students to demonstrate both synthesis and application of knowledge in solving contemporary problems. Community service and service learning, internships, research and travel are all vital ways of enhancing and expanding the learning environment. A well-developed coordination of activities will serve as an effective way to interweave theory and practice at multiple levels for Simpson students. These are a sampling of the types of initiatives that may maximize the impact of integrative learning at Simpson: G

Create a Center for Experiential Learning to coordinate campus-wide experiential and integrative learning programs. G Increase support for student volunteerism, service learning, student research and student travel in order to involve students in experiential activities each year of their Simpson experience. G Develop a portfolio in which students translate theory to practice and engage in a vocational reflection with all service, internship, and trans-cultural experiences:

Living and Working in a Global Context

Simpson College is intentional in assisting students to understand the responsibilities of being a global citizen. This includes understanding diversity in the United States as well as in the world. In addition, Simpson is in a unique position to help future world citizens develop an understanding of the social, economic and ethical implications of globalization and sustainability. These are a sampling of the types of initiatives that may support and sustain such a learning environment: G

Initiate a study abroad or domestic trans-cultural experiential program as a goal for all students, including students in the evening and weekend programs. G Recruit more international and minority students, faculty and staff. G Create multiple connections with diverse organizations in Des Moines to facilitate local trans-cultural experiences.

Forbes magazine named Des Moines as one of the nation’s best places for business and careers. A hub for health care, politics, publishing and finance, the capital city of 500,000 provides Simpson students with outstanding opportunities for careertrack internships in a variety of fields.


Developing graduates who can serve as responsible leaders in their work environments as well as the communities in which they live is at the heart of what a Simpson education is about. The college is purposeful in developing leadership skills and potential in students. Leadership development is wide and deep – wide to meaningfully impact all students at Simpson and deep so that those students who desire can develop a significant concentration, both academic and experiential, in leadership. These are a sampling of the types of initiatives that may help move the college in implementing a comprehensive leadership development program: G

Implement a comprehensive leadership model that intentionally connects the theme of leadership and responsible citizenship and engages students from first through senior year both in and out of the traditional classroom. G Increase student participation in leadership skill development through an expanded religious life program and Wesley Service Scholars Program, residential learning communities, a quarterly leadership and character lecture series, coordinated academic course offerings and student retreats and conferences. G Create a leadership certificate and leadership academic minor for students.

According to the NSSE survey, Simpson students spend more hours than students at similar schools participating in co-curricular events, which often lead to outstanding leadership opportunities.

While playing basketball, I found out more about myself and tested my limits as a person. I learned to be a leader and a team player.” ~ Katelyn Whiton, ’08, Panora, Iowa

Simpson College is just one of two Division III colleges in Iowa accepted into the NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills Program, a development program for studentathletes. The program focuses on the growth of athletes in five different areas: academics, athletics, personal development, career development and community service, and enhances student athletes’ experiences by encouraging students to take ownership of their education and professional development, teaching leadership skills and endorsing respect for diversity.

According to the NSSE survey, Simpson students spend more hours participating in community service or volunteer work than students at similar schools.

Personal and Social Responsibility

Simpson is committed to forming persons of personal integrity and character. The college mission encourages the cultivation of character, citizenship, service to community and a commitment to social justice. Character education and civic responsibility requires significant strategy and Simpson is intentional in its efforts in order to aid student development in the area of personal and social responsibility. These are a sampling of the types of initiatives that may allow the college to focus more intentionally on character education: G

Incorporate character development into the core curriculum of the college. G Communicate the values and virtues of the Simpson Experience and to convey expectations of students to act with honor and integrity as they relate to all matters of behavioral and academic conduct. G Strengthen college-wide support services that assist students to address ethical and behavioral challenges of contemporary college life and to examine, reflect and act on the moral and ethical challenges of contemporary society.

“Campus Day is such an important Simpson tradition. It’s a day for students to give back to the school and the community, which do so much for each and every one of them.” ~ Heather Gaffey, ’08, Iowa City, Iowa

Simpson has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service efforts and service to disadvantaged youth. The Simpson community provided more than 32,000 hours of service in the past year.


he learning initiatives outlined here will begin the journey to realize a revitalized and improved Simpson Experience. The vision is set. The plan is strong. Simpson’s future depends on our commitment to follow the vision and put the plan into action.

The college has established the Strategic Planning Council to do just that – help put the plan into action. The council will monitor the success of the strategic decision making process; guide and facilitate the identification of a comprehensive assessment of college activities, which advance the five initiatives; prioritize new initiatives to advance the plan; and regularly review the plan and make recommendations as needed in order to adequately address future changes in the higher education environment. Throughout the strategic planning process, Simpson looked for opportunities to create programs around the new initiatives that will immediately begin to enhance the Simpson Experience. Several new programs are already taking shape, they include:

Partnership with Great Ape Trust of Iowa

The future is bright

Simpson’s partnership with the world-class research center in Des Moines will provide students and a visiting professor the opportunity to work alongside world-renowned researchers in the study of these primates. Simpson will provide renewable scholarships to highly qualified students each year for four years beginning in 2008. In addition, Professor Carl Halgren will serve half time at both Simpson and at Great Ape Trust of Iowa in order to help further the partnership.

Simpson Urban Studies Institute

In response to a growing urban population, larger minority and immigrant populations and an increased need to examine the social justice issues arising from this growth, Simpson College and Urban Dreams in Des Moines have partnered to create the Simpson Urban Studies Institute (SUSI). The collaboration will provide greater integration of research and program development in the Des Moines metro area, which will lead to better programs and services for citizens. A SUSI office will be located in Des Moines.

Center for Vocation and Integrative Learning

The Center for Vocation and Integrative Learning (CVIL), housed in the Office of Student Development, will help students integrate the principles of their liberal arts education with vocational exploration, leadership development and other experiential learning opportunities to meet the growing demands of the modern workplace. CVIL encourages students to examine how their interests and talents align with specific career goals and lifestyles.


he Simpson Experience has prepared students well for 148 years. The focus provided by this plan will help to ensure that the Simpson Experience effectively prepares students for the world of the 21st century and that Simpson College continues to graduate men and women who see, serve and shape the world.

SIMPSON COLLEGE 701 North C Street Indianola, Iowa 50125

Reshaping the Simpson Experience  

Strategic Plan for Simpson College

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